RAPIDS skipper Moeen Ali declared his side ‘deserved’ their first trophy in 11 years after a thrilling five wicket win in the Vitality Blast final over the impressive Sussex Sharks.
The England all-rounder lavished praise on his side after jubilant scenes which greeted the club’s first trophy since the Pro 40 title in 2007.
Moeen led the victory charge with 41 off 27 balls in an opening stand of 61 with Joe Clarke before Ben Cox repeated his semi-final heroics with 46 off 27 balls to guide the Rapids to glory.
“The guys deserve it, us as a club deserve it for the way we have been playing, we were fantastic,” he said.
“Today was special for us guys as a group. Everyone chipped in at some stage, we have been doing it all year. Today was Coxy’s day, he’s been fantastic in both games and he really deserves it after a tough week.
“He has been a massive player for us this year in this competition and always will be.
“It means a lot, it’s more than just us as a cricket team and a group of people is for the city, the staff. It’s been a tough 10 years but I want to give a special mention to Bumpy Rhodes who has put this team together and isn’t at the club to see it but I am sure he will be very proud that all the guys he has brought through the academy are doing well and reaping the awards.
The Rapids lost the toss and were asked to field by the Sharks skipper Luke Wright who led the way with 33 before being bowled by Moeen with the score on 77-2 in the tenth over.
His departure brought in the entertaining Delray Rawlins who greeted the arrival of Brett D’Oliveira into the attack with two huge sixes as the Sharks looked to sink their teeth into another 200 plus score as in their semi-final with Somerset.
He was well supported by half-centurion Laurie Evans and at 121-2 with just over six overs to go, the Sharks were looking set for a big total. They reckoned without Moeen though who came back into the attack and had Rawlins caught at long off by Pat Brown for 21 before bowling David Wiese in his next over to reduce the Sharks to 131-4.
Accurate bowling at the death saw the Rapids restrict the Sharks to 157-6 with no boundaries in the final five overs.
The Rapids made the most of their bowlers efforts and raced to 53-0 at the end of the six over powerplay. The loss of Clarke and Tom Fell quickly failed to blunt the Rapids who reached the halfway stage of their innings on 80-2, needing 78 from the remaining 10 to seal glory.
The Sharks spinners took hold and saw the back of D’Oliveira for 10 and Moeen for a well-made 41 and with just seven overs left the Rapids still needed 62.
It was then Cox came to the fore with a host of shots which got the boundaries the Rapids needed to keep up with the rate. The loss of Whiteley to Jofra Archer didn’t dent the wicket keeper’s belief and with three overs left the Rapids needed 31.
Cox took 14 off that over to set up a thrilling climax with 17 needed off 12 balls with the following three legal deliveries destined to go down in folklore.
A single off the first ball by Barnard brought Cox back onto strike but Archer bowled a head high beamer which evaded the keeper and went for four meaning six runs were taken off the total and a free hit given for the no ball.
Cox then dispatched the free hit for six and sent the following bouncer to the boundary for four to seal a remarkable triumph.
His efforts rightly earned him his second man of the match award of Finals Day and speaking after the match he said: ““There were 11 of us out there, I just chipped in. Browny (Pat Brown) did outstandingly with the ball, as did all the bowlers and in my opinion the game was won in that first half.
“Mo and Clarkey set the tone perfectly and we just went from there. I found the slow bowlers the hardest, I was waiting to see the back of both spinners.
“I knew I would be able to use the pace and go behind the wicket. Some days it comes off, I have had plenty when it hasn’t but this was my day for some reason,” he added.